Each year Italy attracts millions of tourists who come from every corner of the world to visit its natural landscapes, cities and museums, learn about its art and history, and taste the great variety of regional dishes and wines. In recent years Italy has also become one of the most attractive destinations within the EU for foreign retirees who wish to spend their golden years abroad. But what are the paths one may pursue in order to relocate to Italy and ultimately obtain citizenship? This article will outline the ways in which individuals who do not have Italian ancestry and are not married to an Italian citizen may obtain residency in Italy, and ultimately apply for Italian citizenship.
How to enter Italy: visas
There are several types of visas which allow entry into Italy, such as the work, study and family reunification visas, the self-employment visa, the Elective Residence Visa (also known as the Italian Retirement Visa) and the Investor Visa (or Golden Visa). In particular, the Elective Residence Visa is designed specifically for individuals with high self-sustaining incomes. This visa allows its holders to stay in Italy for 1 year, but it can be renewed provided that the applicant meets the requirements each year. On the other hand, the Investor Visa allows non-EU investors to stay in Italy for a 2-year period on the condition that they invest in specific areas of the Italian economy with the aim of contributing to the country’s economic and societal growth.
As non-EU citizens are only allowed to spend a maximum of 90 days in Italy, applying for a visa is the first step to take to enter Italy as it will allow you to obtain a residency permit (“permesso di soggiorno”) and to spend the number of years needed to apply for Italian citizenship by residency. On the other hand, EU citizens do not need a visa to enter Italy, but if they wish to apply for Italian citizenship by residency they will need to register as residents in a municipality upon arriving in Italy.
Requirements to apply for citizenship by residency
If you are an EU citizen you can apply for Italian citizenship after 4 years of legal residency in Italy; on the other hand, if you are a non-EU citizen you can apply after having resided in Italy for at least 10 years. However, some categories of individuals can apply after 3 years of legal residency; this applies to foreigners whose parents or grandparents were Italian by birth, and to foreigners who were born in Italy and did not apply for Italian citizenship when they turned 18. Finally, stateless people and individuals who were adopted by an Italian citizen after they reached the age of 18 can apply for Italian citizenship by residency after 5 years of legal residency in Italy.
In order to apply your name must be listed in the registry office (“anagrafe”) in the town/s where you have resided without any interruption for the number of years which are necessary to file an application. You must also have B1 level in Italian, unless you fall into one of the following categories:
- you already have certified knowledge of Italian, which has been certified by the University for foreigners of Siena, the University for foreigners of Perugia, Roma Tre University or the Dante Alighieri Society;
- you hold a language degree in Italian or you attended school in Italy;
- you hold a “carta di soggiorno UE per soggiornanti di lungo periodo” (permit of stay for individuals residing in Italy for prolonged periods of time), which was issued after 2011.
In order to apply for citizenship by residency you also need to prove that your yearly income has not been lower than € 8.263,31 for the past 3 years. If you are married and your spouse is dependent on you financially, your yearly income must not have been lower than €11.362,05, and an additional € 516.46 is required for every dependent child.
How to submit an application
The application must be submitted via the official website of the Italian Ministry of the Interior and once it has been approved you will need to provide the local prefecture with original copies of the following:
- a certified, original copy of your birth certificate which has been duly legalized and translated into Italian;
- clean criminal records issued by the country of origin and any other countries in which you have resided since the age of 14, which have been duly translated and legalized. If you are a US citizen you will need to provide clean criminal background checks issued by the FBI and by all the U.S. states where you have resided since the age of 14;
- proof of payment for the application (€250). The payment needs to be made to the Italian Ministry of the Interior’s bank account and the receipt needs to be attached to the rest of the documents used to file the application;
- proof of income;
- B1 language certification.
By law, the Italian authorities have 24 months to provide applicants with an outcome; however, this may also be extended to 36 months.
Please note that you must reside in Italy while your application is being processed.
If your claim to citizenship is successful, you will need to attend a ceremony which will take place within 6 months from the day on which your application is approved. During the ceremony held in your municipality, you will need to take an oath and swear allegiance to the Italian Republic.
It is worth pointing out that any minor children who are living with you at the time of the oath will automatically become Italian citizens.
Other paths to relocating to Italy
If you are eligible to apply for Italian citizenship by descent, relocating to Italy will be easier than the process described above. In particular you can apply for citizenship via an Italian consulate, a court or a municipality in Italy and obtain an Italian passport which enables you to stay in Italy without any time restrictions. On the other hand, spouses of Italian citizens can apply for a specific residency permit, or for Italian citizenship by marriage.
Indeed, there are several advantages to obtaining Italian citizenship, such as being able to travel, study or work anywhere in the European Union without any restrictions. In fact, if you hold Italian citizenship, you do not need a visa to travel to any of the EU member states, and you can reside in Italy as well as in another EU member state without any time limitation.
If you would like more information about the potential paths you can pursue in order to follow your Italian dream and relocate to Italy, do not hesitate to contact Italian Citizenship Assistance at firstname.lastname@example.org or at +1- 323 – 892 – 0861.